Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth was one of my favourite, and most played, games of 2019, and ever since the Fantasy Flight Games announced their ‘Live’ schedule for January, I have been eagerly awaiting news of a new expansion, which was announced on the 28th January.
Shadowed Paths adds a new campaign of 13 scenarios to the game, covering Mirkwood and Moria.
In addition to this, the expansion gives you fives new heroes and 25 new monster miniatures.
The Heroes include two Dwarves (Balin and Dis – a new female Dwarf character, who apparently is Thorin’s sister) along with Arwen, Eleanor (a human character from the Living Card Game) and Gandalf.
As well as the heroes themselves, the expansion includes five new roles – Herbalist, Traveller, Meddler, Smith and Delver plus new items and titles.
As for the monsters, we appear to have giant spiders, the Spawn of Ungoliant (again, monster looks to be straight from the card art – if this is anything like the LCG, this creature is nasty) some sort of toothed worm – called ‘The Nameless Thing’ , Oathbreakers, more Orcs and Goblins – the Taskmaster is straight out of the card art form the living card game – plus a Stone Troll, and, of Course, since we are in Moria, a Balrog(!).
As well as the new scenarios, these new monsters will also add variety into the existing game – it will be interesting to see what different challenges these bring to combat.
One of the issues with many FFG Lord of the Rings games, and this one in particular, is the use of the main characters in the game in scenarios that happen at the same time as Lord of the Rings but are nothing to do with the story arc. Why would Aaragorn, Gimli and Legolas find themselves investigating thefts in The Shire, other than the fact that it ‘would be cool to play Aragorn in a game’?
Whilst I have been willing to suspend disbelief so far, I am really not sure about the inclusion of Gandalf as a hero, given his somewhat unique standing in Middle Earth as one of the Istari. He was only ever an ally in the card game (although I have found myself praying for his arrival on more than one occasion), and I really don’t think he should be a playable character in the game – surely he is far too powerful when compared to most other heroes?
Imperial Assault does it right – you play as new ‘generic’ character types rather than the franchise heroes, although it is possible that they will cross your path from time to time. This should have been done in this game, rather than the road that FFG have chosen to travel.
Then they include a Balrog – one of the singular most powerful foes in Middle Earth. As far as I am aware, only Gandalf and Glorfindel have ever killed one, and Gandalf the Grey died in doing so. A comment in the FFG video was that the Balrog cannot be killed. In that case, why have it appear at all, other than to possibly scare the s**t out of the party, induce a TPK or railroad an adventure path. To be honest, the app could do that without the use of a model. It’s not bad, but it’s less than imposing (far too small – the Stone Troll is taller than it for goodness sake!) and doesn’t do justice to Melkor’s finest.
I have really enjoyed my games of Journeys… to date with Josh, so this new expansion is most welcome and has been immediately added to the ‘must buy’ list.
Shadowed Paths is due for release in May 2020. You can read more about the release on the Fantasy Flight website here, plus you can watch a video which gives initial details of the expansion here, which includes a reveal of all the miniatures, plus some teasers about characters, including a discussion on designing Gandalf.